“It is time to end America’s longest war,” Biden will say, according to excerpts released by the White House. “It is time for American troops to come home.”
Biden will deliver his remarks from the Treaty Room, the same location where President George W. Bush announced that the war in Afghanistan had begun in 2001.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” Biden plans to say. “I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”
Biden’s announcement comes as the United States will miss the May 1 deadline that the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban last year for exiting the country. The United States officially has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, but there are about 1,000 additional Special Forces personnel in the country.
A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters on Tuesday that the withdrawal “is not conditions-based.” Biden officials have concluded that when the United States has made its presence in Afghanistan dependent on improvements on the ground, they have failed to materialize.
But the decision to pull troops from the country comes at a perilous time, with military officials warning that a complete departure could lead to more terrorist activity.
In his speech, Biden will address those concerns in part by vowing to continue to support the Afghanistan government through diplomatic and humanitarian work.
“We will keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces,” the president is expected to say. “Along with our partners, we are training and equipping nearly 300,000 personnel. And they continue to fight valiantly on behalf of their country and defend the Afghan people, at great cost. We will support peace talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, facilitated by the United Nations.”
Biden’s decision received support from liberal Democrats, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who praised the president for moving to end the prolonged military conflict. But some Republicans quickly attacked Biden, saying the decision was reckless and dangerous.
Biden is expected to defend his position in Wednesday’s speech, affirming his conclusion that it is time to bring the troops home.
“We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago,” he will say. “That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021. Rather than return to war with the Taliban, we have to focus on the challenges that will determine our standing and reach today and into the years to come.”